GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- His team already was in a 10-point hole, but Vernon Hargreaves could have done something about it.
On Vanderbilt’s first offensive play of the second quarter, quarterback Patton Robinette dropped back from his 22 and quickly had UF cornerback Brian Poole closing in on a blitz. Robinette locked in on wide receiver Jordan Matthews just across the line of scrimmage and tried to force a pass to his favorite target, despite Hargreaves in Grade-A coverage.
The ball spiked the true freshman cornerback right in the No. 1 on his jersey ... then slipped to the Florida Field turf.
A potential pick-6 became a no-pick for nothing.
“You have to try and reel that one in,” UF coach Will Muschamp said after Vandy’s 34-17 home defeat of the Gators, the first loss to the Commodores at home in 68 years. “Sometimes, when things are rolling -- and right now, they’re not rolling well for us -- they bounce the other way.”
Four plays later, after a Vandy punt, Tyler Murphy underthrew his receiver on a deep ball and Commodores safety Kenny Ladler did reel in the ball. Ladler returned the interception 28 yards to set up a Vandy touchdown and 17-0 lead.
Things bounced the Commodores’ way. Turnovers, specifically.
The Gators coughed up four of them, all by Murphy, who was intercepted three times and fumbled once. The three picks came in the first 22 minutes and each time set Vandy up with a short field, the last of which helped push the Commodores to a 24-3 lead barely two minutes into the second half.
Their three touchdown drives?
- 1 play, 10 yards.
- 4 plays, 22 yards.
- 2 plays, 4 yards.
Look no further in dissecting how Florida out-gained Vanderbilt in total offense 344-183 yet never really was in the game.
“We can’t keep going backward,” UF senior offensive guard Jon Halapio said. “We can’t just keep creating mistakes and playing catch-up.”
And for that, Murphy turned a finger on himself.
“I didn’t play well,” he said. “Anytime you throw three interceptions you put your defense in a bind, you kill the momentum offensively.”
Murphy’s back-breakers weren’t limited to interceptions. He was sacked and fumbled the ball way at the Vandy 46 with 30 seconds left in the half and a chance maybe to get a score and take some momentum into the locker room. For that, he shared blame with his offensive line.
But the possession before, the Gators had a first-and-goal at the Commodores’ 1-yard line with a slam-dunk opportunity for a touchdown. Murphy got the offense to the line and changed an inside run into an option to the left side.
"It was a miscommunication between me and my line," he said.
Vanderbilt was all over the play and Murphy's pitch for freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor was a bad one, bouncing out of bounds for a 5-yard loss. Just like that, second-and-goal from the 6.
Two incompletions later, the Gators settled for a 23-yard Brad Phillips field goal.
“Anytime you play like that, it doesn’t help your team,” said Murphy, who finished 30-of-46 for 305 yards, one touchdown, the four giveaways and was sacked five times for 59 yards. “Individually, I feel I let my team down.”
With a date at 12th-ranked South Carolina next week, someone -- anyone -- better pick the Gators up or things could get ugly in Columbia.
UF coach Will Muschamp said his team needs to fight through adversity rather wallow in a “woe-is-me” attitude that is floating over the Gators' sidelines and in the locker room.
Yes, "woe is me." His words.
“Right now, we're not strong enough to handle that," Muschamp said. You can play with more of an edge, in my opinion. I’m not saying we didn’t play hard. We competed and fought to the end. But at the end of the day, you cannot give them those opportunities. it’s a complete, emotional letdown.”